Council leaves carbon trust alone

City council Tuesday voted to hold off on asking the province to repeal the Pacific Carbon Trust

City council Tuesday voted to hold off on asking the province to repeal the Pacific Carbon Trust – a provincial emissions reduction program – despite objections from one councillor and the mayor.

Coun. Andy Adams called the program a “tax grab” and had put forward a motion asking council to endorse writing a letter to Premier Christy Clark requesting the immediate repeal of the Carbon Trust. City staff, however, recommended council leave any future decisions up to the province.

Adam said his issue with the Carbon Trust is that only public institutions are having to pay to purchase carbon offsets to counter their greenhouse gas emissions.

“The problem I have with the Pacific Carbon Trust is the inequity in that only public sector institutions are having to contribute to this trust,” Adams said. “As it stands right now, the city of Campbell River is paying $40,000 into a trust and some of the much larger producers of what they’re trying to eliminate are not having to contribute at all.

“So it’s just a public sector grab that is having an adverse effect on the operating budgets of local governments, health care institutions and other public entities,” Adams added.

Mayor Walter Jakeway agreed, saying he doesn’t like the Pacific Carbon Trust or the Carbon Tax which were introduced by the B.C. government in 2008 in an effort to become carbon neutral.

But Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s sustainability manager, said the city is not directly affected by the Carbon Trust because it does not purchase offsets from the program. Instead, the city allocates equivalent dollars that would go toward purchasing offsets to a Carbon Neutral Reserve fund for Campbell River-based greenhouse reduction projects.

Zirnhelt said in a report to council that because the city is not directly involved and because the province is reviewing the program, the city should wait before making any recommendations to the province regarding the Trust.

The rest of council agreed and voted to hold off on making any recommendations.

Coun. Larry Samson said he thinks the Carbon Trust is a worthwhile program and it is already starting to pay dividends.

He pointed to the 55,000 hectare Darkwoods Carbon Pilot project in the Nelson/Creston area, which is harnessing carbon from the forest to further large-scale conservation in B.C.

“While there may have been some hiccups when this program first started, there are success stories,” Samson said. “I think it is a good program and we’re starting to see some dividends. I think we should help the province tweak it to make it work even better.”

This is not the first time the Carbon Trust has been under fire. Former B.C. Auditor General John Doyle released a report this spring claiming the province was not meeting its carbon neutral objectives and that the tens of millions of dollars contributed by local governments, hospitals, and schools to buy the carbon offsets weren’t being properly spent. The province rejected Doyle’s findings, with Environment Minister Terry Lake saying B.C. was the first government in North America to become carbon neutral by 2010 and he stood by the government’s achievements.